Cloudy Forecast for Olympic National Park

Date:   May 26, 2004
Contact:   Heather Weiner, NPCA, office: 206-903-1444, ext. 21, or cell: 206-818-4041

Cloudy Forecast for Olympic National Park

Seattle, Wash. - The health of Olympic National Park is chronically threatened by an annual funding shortfall of more than $6 million, according to a new report released today by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). This shortfall impacts the experiences of visitors this summer and limits the National Park Service’s ability to care for Olympic’s wildlife, cultural artifacts and buildings.

“Memorial Day weekend visitors to Olympic will be surprised to learn that a crown jewel national park isn’t able to provide the protection its natural and cultural resources need, nor the services visitors expect and deserve,” said Heather Weiner, NPCA regional director for the Pacific Northwest.

According to NPCA’s new State of the Parks® report, Olympic’s overall stewardship capacity is rated “poor”, despite findings that existing natural and cultural resources are in “fair” to “good” condition overall. Among the most significant warning signs that Olympic needs help:

  • The park’s rangers are endangered. The number of seasonal staff hired in the summer has dropped from 130 in 2001 to only 25 this year. The permanent rangers are also missing from Olympic: just 120 permanent staff fill the park’s 202 positions. One of two fisheries biologist positions will remain unfilled this year, the Aquatic Ecologist position will be eliminated, and a wildlife biologist position will be lapsed, all in the face of ongoing threats to Olympic’s declining wild salmon.
  • Park visitors will notice the drastic reductions in services. Visitor Centers will be operating with limited hours and canceled visitor programs this summer, due to limited staff. The park is cutting 40% of its ranger talks. Normally 140,000 visitors get to talk to a ranger while hiking Olympic’s 900 miles of trails, but this year, only 20,000 visitors will see a ranger on the trails. Restrooms will not be cleaned at least 28 days this summer, and trash collection and mowing operations will be drastically reduced.

The Forks’ Visitor Center will be closed two days a week because of insufficient funding and staffing, impacting teh local community. “Olympic National Park plays an integral role in our community,” said Mayor Nedra Reed of Forks, Washington. “People stop and stay in Forks, buy gas and eat in Forks. Any curtailment in services will directly affect us, and we can ill afford that loss.” Olympic’s visitors spend $80.5 million annually in Peninsula communities, supporting more than 2,000 jobs according to a 2001 Michigan State University analysis.

NPCA’s State of the Parks assessment has ten key recommendations aimed at addressing the threats facing Olympic National Park. The most important single action that would help ensure protection of the park’s threatened fish and wildlife, and provide quality visitor services, would be for Congress and the administration to increase funding for annual park operations.

Congressman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who represents the Olympic Peninsula, spoke about Olympic’s funding needs during recent congressional hearings with the National Park Service. “Congressman Dicks is Olympic’s greatest supporter,” said Weiner. “But now we need the rest of Congress and the administration to join him in addressing the imminent threats to this crown jewel.”

Olympic National Park protects nearly one million acres including one of the few temperate rainforests in the world and the largest contiguous block of old-growth coniferous forest in the country. The park contains some of the best remaining habitat for several endangered species, is home to at least 15 kinds of animals and eight kinds of plants found no where else, protects the largest population of Roosevelt elk in its natural environment in the world. The park’s diverse territory of mountains, forests and coast are linked together by many species of native salmon and steelhead in its more than 3,000 miles of streams.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks® program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. The product of a yearlong analysis, “Olympic National Park: A Resource Assessment,” is the twelfth NPCA State of the Parks report.


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